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China threatens sanctions over U.S. arms deal

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei says the U.S.-Taiwan arms deal "severely" endangers China's national security.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei says the U.S.-Taiwan arms deal "severely" endangers China's national security.
  • China considers sanctions against U.S. companies over arms deal with Taiwan
  • China has suspended U.S. military visits, postponed arms control meeting
  • Sale includes Black Hawk helicopters, air defense missiles, mine-hunting ships

Beijing, China (CNN) -- China has threatened to slap sanctions on American companies that sell arms to its rival Taiwan as part of a range of punitive actions Beijing is taking to protest the deal.

China also summoned U.S. ambassador Jon Huntsman to express its anger over Washington's announcement, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua said, citing the Foreign Ministry.

Beijing also suspended plans for visits between the Chinese and U.S. militaries and postponed a high-level arms control meeting, it announced Saturday, following Washington's $6.4-billion arms deal with Taiwan.

China's Defense Ministry said the decision was made "in consideration of the serious harm and impacts on Sino-U.S. military relations" brought about by the arms deal, according to Xinhua.

"China will make further judgments as appropriate," Xinhua reported.

China had already complained to the United States about the deal, announced Friday by the Obama administration.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei called it a "rude interference in China's internal affairs, severely endangering China's national security" and said China expressed its "strong indignation."

The arms sale includes 60 Black Hawk helicopters, totaling $3.1 billion; 114 advanced Patriot air defense missiles; a pair of Osprey mine-hunting ships; and dozens of advanced communications systems.

The deal with Taiwan -- which neither China nor the United States recognizes as an independent country -- does not include F-16 fighter jets, which China has vehemently opposed.

The State Department described the latest round of arms sales to Taiwan as a way to guarantee security and stability, despite China's objections.

"This is a clear demonstration of the commitment this administration has to provide Taiwan with defensive weapons it needs and as provided for in the Taiwan Relations Act," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Friday.

He said the action is consistent with Washington's "one-China" policy and will help maintain security and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

The arms sales come as the United States is hoping to persuade China to sign on to harsher sanctions against Iran and just after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized China for its policies relating to the Internet.

Crowley would not speak directly about the timing of the announcement of the sales, and about the fact that the arms package does not include F-16s.

A senior U.S. official said later that the United States expected Chinese criticism of the arms deal, but does not expect permanent damage.

The official said he believed Clinton had discussed the sale in London with her Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of Thursday's international conference on Afghanistan.

"This relationship between the United States and China is broad, it's deep. There are a large number of issues. We don't see eye to eye with them and we have to have and do have the ability to speak honestly," the official said.

The arms deal is the latest chapter in a decades-long uneasy standoff. China claims Taiwan is its own territory and has threatened to invade if Taiwan ever declares independence. The United States has said it will defend Taiwan if China ever attacks.

The government in Taiwan began as the remnant of the government that ruled over mainland China until a Communist insurrection proved victorious in 1949. With the Communist takeover of mainland China, the losing faction fled to the island of Taiwan. Taiwan is formally known as the Republic of China, while Communist China's official name is People's Republic of China.

Many Western nations and the United Nations recognized Taiwan as the legitimate Chinese government until the 1970s.

CNN's Eve Bower and Charley Keyes contributed to this report.